Josh Kurtz: Taking Care of Business

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By: Josh Kurtz 

Maybe turnover in the state Senate won’t be so great after all.

Money isn’t everything when assessing an incumbent’s strengths and weaknesses. But based on the new campaign disclosure reports submitted this week, several of the shakiest senators appear to be in solid financial shape – at least when compared to their challengers. That’s true for both incumbents who were believed to be imperiled in the general election and those who may be in danger in the Democratic primary.

Baltimore County state Sen. Jim Brochin (D) faces tough challenges in both the primary and the general election, but he is miles ahead of his opponents financially at the moment. Brochin reported raising $91,000 in the past year, and he had $229,000 in the bank a week ago. Former Del. Connie DeJuliis, his Democratic primary foe, reported $42,000 in the bank after raising $59,000 -- $20,000 from a personal loan. The only money she reported spending last year was on a poll, conducted by Peter Hart Research, a prominent Democratic firm in D.C.

Republicans think they have an excellent shot of flipping that seat, but their likely nominee, former Baltimore County GOP Chairman Chris Cavey, is going to have to up his fundraising game. He pulled in just $15,000 since becoming a candidate, and had about $7,500 cash on hand last week.

Lower Shore state Sen. Jim Mathias (D) likewise has a huge financial advantage over his likely Republican challenger, Del. Mike McDermott. Mathias raised $140,000 in the past year and banked $208,000. McDermott, by contrast, collected just $13,000 and reported $21,000 on hand.

St. Mary’s County Sen. Roy Dyson (D) has never been a stellar fundraiser, but he has a considerable advantage over the Republicans who are vying to take him on. Dyson banked $48,000 last week. Steve Waugh, Dyson’s 2010 challenger who finished just 2 points out of the running, had about $15,000 on hand, while St. Mary’s County Commissioner Cindy Jones, the preferred candidate of many GOP leaders, had just $5,000 in the bank.

Annapolis-area Sen. John Astle (D), who Republicans fantasize about targeting, reported $175,000 on hand after raising $82,000 in the past year. The Republicans trying to challenge him are unknowns – one reported about $300 in the bank, one didn’t file a campaign finance statement at all.

Democratic senators who appear vulnerable to primary challenges also appear to be in pretty good shape.

Prince George’s Sen. Ulysses Currie (D) had $100,000 in the bank more than his primary foe, Del. Melony Griffith (D). He reported $112,000 on hand compared to her $12,000.

In a neighboring Prince George’s district, Sen. Anthony Muse (D), whose campaign finance reports are usually late and messy, filed on time – and reported $52,000 on hand after raising $84,000, including a $38,000 loan. His top challenger, Del. Veronica Turner (D), whose campaign appears to be supported single-handedly by the Service Employees International Union, had just $25,000 in the bank.

A third candidate, lawyer and former Capitol Hill staffer Brian Woolfolk was about on par with Muse financially. He banked $50,000 after reporting raising $65,000 – though $45,000 of that came from his own pocket. Could Woolfolk, a protégé of Virginia Congressman Bobby Scott (D), prove to be more formidable than Turner?

Any notion that Senate President Pro Tem Nathaniel McFadden (D) could be susceptible to a challenge in Baltimore city from professional political provocateur Julius Henson seems widely off-base. McFadden is sitting on $85,000 after pulling in $108,000 in the past year. Henson had less than $2,000 on hand.

And some pundits have suggested that Senate Education, Health & Environmental Affairs Chairwoman Joan Carter Conway (D) could be vulnerable in a race against Baltimore City Councilman Bill Henry (D). But Carter Conway, who openly pondered retirement last year, reported $108,000 on hand. Henry had $8,000.

Money does not guarantee a victory. Democrats sitting in conservative districts could be susceptible to whatever ill winds are blowing their party’s way nationally this fall – and it is a “six-year itch” election, after all. And during an early Democratic primary, who knows what vagaries will be at play in various districts?

Still, money for each of these incumbents is an awfully nice cushion to have.

Seven incumbent senators are leaving willingly (two others left in the fall, and their appointed replacements are favored to win full terms). How much higher will the number get?

NOTE: My regularly scheduled column next Tuesday will contain more fundraising analysis.

Josh Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily, a Capitol Hill publication. He can be reached at .

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Josh Kurtz has been writing about Maryland politics since late 1995. Louie Goldstein, William Donald Schaefer and Pete Rawlings were alive, but the Intercounty Connector, as far as anyone could tell, was dead.

But some things never change: Mike Miller is still in charge of the Senate. Gerry Evans and Bruce Bereano are among the top-earning lobbyists in Annapolis. Steny Hoyer is still waiting for Nancy Pelosi to disappear. And Maryland Republicans are still struggling to be relevant.

The media landscape in Maryland has changed a lot, and Kurtz is happy to write weekly for Center Maryland. He's been writing a column for the website since it launched in January 2010.

In his "real" job, Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily down on Capitol Hill. But he'll always find Maryland politics more fascinating.

Kurtz grew up in New York City and attended public schools there. He has a BA in History from the University of Wisconsin and an MS in Journalism from Columbia University. He's married with two daughters and lives in Takoma Park, Md. He hopes you'll drop him a line, or maybe go out for a meal with him, because he's always hungry -- for political gossip.